The Good: Good acting, Moments of plot, Character development
The Bad: Direction, Somewhat plot light
The Basics: "Nelson V. Murdock" adds a number of key plot events to Daredevil as Matt Murdock recovers from nearly being killed in the prior episode.
When a show establishes itself, it usually has a pretty limited window for creativity. Most television series's take some time to figure out their look and feel and just what type of narrative structure the show will have. In Daredevil, the first season follows a formula that is very familiar to those who are fans of shows like Lost (reviewed here!). Daredevil episodes are building a main plot and each one focuses on one of the main characters and sprinkles the episode with flashbacks to that character's backstory. With "Nelson V. Murdock," Foggy Nelson finally gets his chance to shine.
"Nelson V. Murdock" is one of the rare episodes that requires a spoiler alert. Because of where the prior episode ended, the final moment of that episode frames "Nelson V. Murdock." For those who want surprise up through the end of "Speak Of The Devil," this is the last place to read before it becomes impossible to continue to read without a key surprise being ruined.
"Nelson V. Murdock" picks up right after "Speak Of The Devil" (reviewed here!). As a result, Foggy Nelson now knows the identity of the Masked Vigilante. In superhero stories where the protagonist takes up an alter ego to fight for others, there always comes a moment when the protagonist's cover is blown. How spy stories and comic book characters deal with their dual identities is a big moment and Daredevil has now been exposed to the first person who straddles both halves of his life (Claire Temple, alluded to but not seen in "Nelson V. Murdock," knows the identity of the Masked Man, but has no real interaction with Matt Murdock in his mundane form.
With Matt Murdock seriously wounded, Foggy discovers his alter-ego. Incensed, Foggy begins to question all that he knows about Matt Murdock. While Foggy tends to Matt, Madame Gao calls a meeting with Fisk and asks him when he will come for her. Fisk denies that she will ever be his target and she advises him to choose a path between darkness and light. Ben Urich visits his wife in the hospital and during her brief lucid moment, she advises him to be tenacious in his reporting. Urich is soon offered an opportunity at the New York Bulletin to move from reporting to editing and, given his wife's condition and Fisk outing himself as the "Savior" of Hell's Kitchen, he begins to seriously consider it.
As Karen is left to convince Urich to stick with reporting, Fisk meets with Owlsley. Owlsley has to be convinced to go speak with Gao and his fear at being eliminated next is palpable. Murdock tells Nelson about the incident that pushed him over the edge from "walking it out" to vigilante as Page shows Urich a nursing home that might care for his wife. Page's ruse is constructed around revealing to Urich a huge lead she found buried in Upstate New York. When Fisk throws a fundraiser to rebuild Hell's Kitchen, Foggy interrogates Murdock and gives his friend an ultimatum.
Until "Nelson V. Murdock," Foggy Nelson has been cast in the role of wisecracking sidekick. His arc has been to pursue the law while he harbors a crush for Karen Page. In "Nelson V. Murdock," he is given more depth and the spine he exhibited in "World On Fire" (reviewed here!) comes back out with a more personal bent.
While Elden Henson does a decent job of balancing both the wisecracks and the earnest emotional moments, Foggy's part in his own episode is robbed by the plot focus late in the episode on Wilson Fisk. Fisk's fundraiser is the site of a huge plot twist and it cuts the momentum out of the climactic Foggy moment.
On a virtually unrelated note, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe might be delighted by the allusion to The Incredible Hulk (reviewed here!). The Incredible Hulk might well be the least-alluded to film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In Ben Urich's office, one of the two New York Bulletin covers on the wall behind the reporter alludes to the Harlem destruction and explicitly references the Hulk! Roxxon from Agent Carter and background moments throughout the Iron Man movies is referenced when Murdock and Nelson take their stand against Landman & Zach.
The acting in "Nelson V. Murdock" is good and only Farren Blackburn's continued use of handheld cameras that make distracting movements during static moments robs the episode of being visually satisfying to watch. Even that movement is not enough to make "Nelson V. Murdock" unwatchable or even unpleasant. Instead, this is one of the better character-focused episodes of Daredevil.
For other works with Phyllis Somerville, be sure to check out my reviews of:
House Of Cards - Season 1
Fringe - Season 3
NYPD Blue - Season 3
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Daredevil - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of the Man Without Fear here!
For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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